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Photo: Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
The museum now offers free family admission to new citizens.

The magnificent collections of Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts have gotten out of reach for many people as admission on most days has escalated. So it was with great interest that I read at the MFA website about a generous program for one deserving group of people: New Americans.

“Starting July 1, the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (MFA), [began welcoming] newly naturalized U.S. citizens living in Massachusetts with complimentary one-year family memberships through a new program called MFA Citizens — the first of its kind in the country. …

“Engaging new citizens is part of the MFA’s ongoing efforts to build a more inclusive community of visitors, volunteers, staff and supporters, fostering the next generation of museum-goers and professionals that reflects the region’s changing demographics. …

“New citizens can sign up for the program by showing a copy or photo of their naturalization certificates at any MFA ticket desk within one year of their ceremony.

“In addition to free admission to the MFA for one year for two adults and unlimited children (ages 17 and under), discounts on programs, shopping, parking and dining, and invitations to member events, the MFA Citizens membership includes a special in-person welcome packet in a custom-designed tote bag. Included in the packet [is] information about upcoming exhibitions and programs — available in Spanish, Chinese, Haitian Creole and Portuguese, the most common non-English languages spoken at home in Boston. On-site signage in these languages will also be placed at the MFA’s Huntington, Fenway, and Schools and Groups entrances to encourage enrollment. …

“The Museum will work with Project Citizenship, the Mayor’s Office for Immigrant Advancement and Boston Public Library to raise awareness of the MFA Citizens program among the approximately 25,000 immigrants who are expected to go through the naturalization process across the Commonwealth within the next year. …

“In addition to hosting ESL classes and conversation groups, Boston Public Library’s Central Library in Copley Square and 24 neighborhood branches house Immigrant Information Corners, which provide information about resources and services available to help advance the well-being of the city’s immigrant residents.”

They don’t put this initiative in terms of the current controversies swirling around immigration, but to me it feels like an institution taking a positive stand in a troubling climate. I hope it will catch on.

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Photos: Bo Zhao
Boston has put a colorful park under Interstate 93. Bright lights, art, 24-hour security, and an ever changing array of events are expected to connect communities that the highway long divided.

When I had a chunk of free time at my last job, I’d take a walk over to an artsy part of Boston called SoWa, for “South of Washington Street.” It was a place of antique dealers, a homeless shelter, art galleries, and farmers markets.

As interesting as SoWa was, it abutted a bleak wasteland under Interstate 93. People had to walk under there — I walked under there — because the highway divided the neighborhood. But it was creepy.

Saturday saw the opening of an unusual park under the highway. I wasn’t there, but a former colleague who manages to see everything of interest in the city got a kick out of it, commenting that he was surprised to find the park is so near Boston’s public Harbor Walk. He shared his photos here.

at the Daily Free Press provided the background. “National Development, the developer of Ink Block, is partnering with Reebok to make the project a reality. The park, which was originally an 8-acre underpass between South Boston and the South End, will feature a pedestrian and bicycle boardwalk, 175 parking spaces for local businesses and a mural wall, according to the release.

“Ted Tye, the managing partner at National Development, said the park was originally supposed to be a plain, normal park when the Massachusetts Department of Transportation started on the project across the street from where their Ink Block brand is located. Once National Development gained access to the project; however, the idea changed. …

“Tye said the idea behind incorporating the murals, which was curated by Street Theory, artistic duo Victor ‘Marka27’ Quiñonez and Liza Quiñonez, was to appeal to companies and younger generations looking to find their start in Boston. …

“Tye said, ‘It makes it really an exciting, new destination, a new playground in the city, and we’ll be extending that not just with our opening event [September 9] but looking into next year with some really great programming.’

“Another reason for opening the park, Tye said, is to connect the neighboring communities of South Boston and the South End and to make the area surrounding the Broadway Bridge safer to walk.

“ ‘By filling in this area with a place that’s well-lit, with a place that will have 24-hour security, with a place that will have lots of people, and activity, and music and art — it makes that gap a lot shorter,’ Tye said. ‘The people that are moving into the Ink Block area are now feeling really good about walking to South Boston, about using the Broadway T station, and it just really connects the two communities.’

“Sneha ‘IMAGINE876’ Shrestha, a Boston-based artist who is contributing to the mural wall described her style as ‘mindful mantras in [her] native language where [she meshes] the aesthetics of Sanskrit scriptures with graffiti influences.’

“Shrestha wrote in an email she wanted to give back to the Boston community as it was the first place she was exposed to the art of graffiti.

“ ‘As a kid from Nepal, I didn’t grow up seeing graffiti or much of any sort of art,’ Shrestha said. …

“Shrestha wrote the location of Underground at Ink Block excited her because it was near her first employer Artists for Humanity, a nonprofit which works to employ under-resourced urban youth interested in art and design, according to their website.

“ ‘My first job out of college was at Artists for Humanity and this is where I realized the effect of art on young people and how I can contribute to being an agent of positive change through art,’ Shrestha said. ‘It feels full circle in a lot of ways to have a mural here as my token of gratitude to this place.’ ”

Tim Logan at the Boston Globe, wondered whether getting to the park will be too challenging for people who are not going between the neighborhoods anyway.

He writes, “Drawing people to a place like this takes work, said Bob Uhlig, president of the Boston landscape architecture firm Halvorson Design. Color will help, he said; so will good lighting. Filling the place with popular, consistent programming will go a long way toward making it a destination, much as the Lawn on D has become, he added.

“ ‘That really adds another level of vibrancy, having something programmed on a regular basis,’ Uhlig said. ‘You want to get people to come back, repeatedly.’

“And, he said, you want the locals to use it. There’s a row of big buildings going up just a block away along Harrison Avenue, which will add thousands of residents to a corner of the city with relatively little park space. This is a chance to create some, even if it’s below a highway.”

More at the Free Press, here, and at the Globe, here.

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Photo: Jonathan Wiggs/Globe Staff
“You’re free to be yourself here and grow in so many ways,’’ said Phedorah, a worker at More Than Words. Boston landlord Stuart Rose is supporting the nonprofit with low rent in Boston’s pricey South End.

I’ve often thought how a charitable landlord could give new life to a town where empty storefronts are proliferating. Of course, a landlord needs to make a living like anyone else, but supporting artists or worthy causes when he has many buildings can increase the value of all his properties.

Stuart Rose is a landlord offering low rent to a charity, and it isn’t even in a decaying neighborhood. He is really just doing good.

Rose is supporting More than Words, “a nonprofit social enterprise that empowers youth who are in the foster care system, court involved, homeless, or out of school to take charge of their lives by taking charge of a business.”

Megan Woolhouse writes at the Boston Globe, “Raise a toast, the former Medieval Manor, boarded up for more than a year, will come to life again as a sprawling used bookstore with an unusual social mission.

“It will be run by More Than Words, a nonprofit whose employees are youth from troubled backgrounds who often live in foster homes and homeless shelters.

“Moreover, the owner of the building on East Berkeley Street elected to give More Than Words discounted rent instead of giving in to the tide of gentrification washing over this corner of the South End. The five-story brick building is surrounded by some of the most expensive new real estate in the city, with its neighbor, the Troy, charging as much as $4,600 for a unit.

“ ‘This is 100 percent the convergence of everything right in the world,’ said Jodi Rosenbaum, who founded More Than Words 13 years ago. ‘You don’t see that very often.’ …

“The building has been owned by Stuart Rose for decades, who agreed to lease Medieval Manor’s former space to More Than Words at below-market rate for 13 years. Rose declined to be interviewed, saying through a spokesman that he didn’t want to be ‘knighted’ for his good deeds. …

“More Than Words describes itself as a social enterprise, and provides on-the-job training for youth who have faced problems in court, at home, or in school and struggled to find work. More than 70 percent of its youth have been involved with the foster care system and 40 percent in the courts. The teens also receive intensive case management working with counselors, who help them work through issues and identify goals. …

“The first-floor space will need a significant renovation after decades as a bawdy haven for Renaissance meals. More Than Words has launched a $5 million fund-raising campaign, and Rosenbaum said Liberty Mutual has already donated more than $1 million after its chief executive, David Long, visited the facility.”

Read about all the plans at the Globe, here. There’s more on the youth program here. It’s a great organization, and I can say on the basis of numerous visits to the storefront in Waltham, you’re sure to find a good book there.

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Photo: Aram Boghosian for The Boston Globe
Malika MacDonald is director of the Amal Women’s Center, which provides shelter for Muslim women and children in need of temporary housing.

When I was working at the central bank, we had a Hubert Humphrey Fellow visit us from Bahrain. One aspect of America she was studying was homelessness. She said there was no homelessness in her country. She said families would never let it happen; they would take people in.

Having no way to know whether that was true in every case, I was nevertheless intrigued. Was it something about the culture in a Muslim country?

One thing I do know is that in this country, alas, Muslim women and children like other women and children, sometimes find themselves in need of temporary housing. That was the impetus for a new center in Boston, the brainchild of an Egyptian-American college student.

Lisa Wangsness wrote about the initiative at the Boston Globe. Here is the part of the article that touched me the most.

“The project began six years ago, when Mona Salem, then a 20-year-old Egyptian-American college student, was trying to help a young Muslim friend who wanted to escape a foster home where she felt unsafe.

“Salem thought her friend would feel most comfortable in a Muslim-run shelter for women, but soon discovered none existed in Boston. So she began raising money to start one, and teamed up with [Malika MacDonald, the national director of the Islamic Circle of North America Relief USA’s Transitional Housing Network.] …

“Donations poured in from every direction. Dishes and pots and pans for the kitchen arrived from families affiliated with the Framingham and Wayland mosques. A man offered his Home Depot credit card to pay for lighting. Various groups and individuals sponsored each of the bedrooms, furnishing them with bright-colored bedding and art for the walls.

“Salem said she was near tears when she saw the finished house the other day.

“ ‘That place was a dump when we first got there, and now it’s beautiful — absolutely beautiful,’ she said. ‘That says a lot about . . . how strong we are as a community to help one another.’

“Help arrived from beyond the local Muslim community as well. An artist in Texas sent an Arabesque Moroccan ceiling medallion for the living room. A board member of the interfaith group Kids4Peace Boston donated a lacquered dining table and banquette. The founder of a planned shelter for transgender people in Indiana sent along bathroom towels, MacDonald said.”

I suspect many of those donors know what it’s like to feel different and look for comfort.

More at the Boston Globe, here.

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After feeling pretty under the weather for a couple days, I rejoiced to be back to normal on Friday, well enough to help out at the ESL class for Haitians in Boston, if not well enough to eat, say, a pizza. I feel the way you are supposed to feel when you stop hitting your head with a hammer. Perhaps you can tell that the two quirkier photos were taken in a happy mood.

Anyway, the collection represents more of my Rhode Island and Massachusetts travels, in sun and shade.

First, New Shoreham, Rhode Island, overcast but lovely.

The Providence photos start with the wild turkey I saw on a morning walk. Erik tells me the turkeys are common. He and the children followed a group of them one day to see if they could find out where they were headed.

Next comes a reproduction of the Hokusai’s “The Great Wave of Kanagawa” on the bleachers of a high school baseball stadium. Then a piece of art welcoming urban farmers to the Fox Point Community Garden. My third Providence photo shows the end of the line for an old train track near a new bikeway. The drawbridge has been frozen in time.

The off-kilter gargoyle is on a building at Downtown Crossing, Boston. Near there I took a picture of the mosaic at St. Anthony’s Shrine, where Lillian and I went to light a candle in amazement and gratitude for an election some years ago. Neither of us is Catholic, but we felt the need of a ceremony.

I had to look up St. Anthony on Wikipedia, which says, “He was proclaimed a Doctor of the Church on 16 January 1946. He is also the patron saint of lost things.”

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The Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway in downtown Boston is not only the place to go for peaceful walks among gorgeous trees and flowers, it is loaded with art. One example: a 3-D printer in the Chinatown stretch of Greenway for passerby to celebrate the Year of the Rooster.

Allison Meier at Hyperallergic writes, “Acquiring a 3D-printed rooster from the “Make and Take” installation in Boston’s Chinatown Plaza on the Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway requires a bit of luck.

“The small objects are printed continuously, dropping into a slot when complete. Although artist and engineer Chris Templeman designed his project with ample space for accumulating roosters, visitors have been arriving day and night to collect the free birds. …

“The ‘Make and Take’ machine, made in collaboration with New American Public Art, is housed in an eight-foot-tall polycarbonate kiosk, positioned just before the red gate to the plaza. It was launched on Chinese New Year in January in honor of the Year of the Rooster. The interactive art machine follows previous Greenway Conservancy projects based on the Chinese zodiac, including Kyu Seok Oh’s handmade paper ‘Wandering Sheep‘ for 2015’s Year of the Goat, and Don Kennell’s steel ‘Monkey See‘ for 2016’s Year of the Monkey.

“Templeman’s rooster was 3D scanned from a porcelain statue at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. …

“Running a 3D printer constantly out in the elements of Boston has had its challenges, with wild tangles, and misshapen botched birds. …

” ‘Over the first month I was on site on average every other day, so it was a tough start, but I learned so much and I got to interact with the public which was awesome,’ Templeman said. ‘I am awe-struck that people are waiting hours to get a rooster.’ ”

More here. If you are on instagram, check this out, too: @newamericanpublicart.

Image: Chris Templeman
“Make and Take” 3D printer installed in Chinatown Plaza on the Rose Kennedy Greenway, Boston.

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Restaurants are having trouble finding trained workers, and many low-income people have trouble getting themselves qualified for a job.

Enter the Culinary Arts Training Program at the Salvation Army’s Kroc Center in Dorchester, Mass.

Sacha Pfeiffer writes at the Boston Globe, “A recent business survey found that the state’s dining sector is facing its worst labor shortage in more than three decades. That survey, by the Federal Reserve, called the staffing situation a ‘crisis,’ and Boston-area restaurants of all types report that hiring at every level, from dishwashers to chefs, is a major challenge.

“But those industry woes pose an opportunity for graduates of free culinary training programs offered by the Salvation Army, Pine Street Inn, Lazarus House Ministries, Community Servings, UTEC, Roca, and other local nonprofits, which have become a small but valuable source of employees for the region’s food service industry. …

“At [November’s] culinary graduation at the Salvation Army’s Kroc Corps Community Center in Dorchester, for example, several prospective employers attended the event to canvass for possible hires. …

“Aimed at low-income students, the programs generally offer basic training in cooking techniques, knife skills, food terminology, menu planning, nutrition, and kitchen safety standards. Many also teach ‘soft skills,’ such as resume writing and effective interviewing, and job-readiness, like the importance of punctuality. …

“Most also provide job placement assistance at not only restaurants, but school cafeterias, hospital kitchens, nursing homes, sporting venues, corporate cafes, and large food supply companies such as Aramark and Sodexo.

“ ‘There are more jobs than we have students for,’ said Paul O’Connell, the former chef/co-owner of Chez Henri in Cambridge who is now culinary director at the New England Center for Arts & Technology, which offers a 16-week culinary training course. … And even low-level jobs in the food sector can lead to lasting careers.

“ ‘The beauty of our industry is if people have a really good attitude and want to learn, they can go from the dish room to the boardroom and everywhere in between,’ said Robert Luz, chief executive of the Massachusetts Restaurant Association, which collaborates with many nonprofit programs.

“ ‘I’ve seen an incredible number of people grow their career from line cook to assistant kitchen manager to kitchen manager to chef and beyond,’ Luz added, ‘so it’s the road to middle income for a lot of people.” More here.

Photo: Jonathan Wiggs/Globe Staff
A graduate of the Culinary Arts Training Program at the Salvation Army’s Kroc Center shows off his certificate.

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